Education represents the base of the development of all individuals and the society they will contribute to build. Lack of education is mostly due to lack of schools and/or teachers, but sometimes children don't receive an education for different reasons. The presence of violence in the place in which they live is often a huge deterrent for families when it's time to send their kids to school, and even though there's the opportunity, it's just too dangerous - and not worthwhile - to go and grab it.
It's the case in South Africa's Western Cape province, in which a few weeks ago no fewer than 16 schools remained closed for a couple of days due to an increase of gang violence. Shooting episodes became so frequent, officials had to shut down the school system. Many locals were hurt or killed, and the situation got to a point in which students and teachers were fearing for their lives.
It's the case throughout India, in which traditional society places its citizens in a "caste system", and separates them based upon their socio-economic status. The people at the bottom on the ladder - who belong to the lowest caste of the "untouchables" - are treated like third class citizens, and are marginalized throughout their lives. If you are an untouchable and fall in love with somebody else from another caste, both you and your lover can be executed. This is called "honor killing". It's totally against the law, but it still happens today, and I was able to witness it directly on two separate trips. The untouchables suffer from every type of abuse, and are not allowed to make their voices heard or advocate for their rights, simply because they don't have any. More importantly, they are denied the possibility to elevate themselves to a higher caste, and risk to be murdered if they decide to do so. They were told at birth that God placed them in that unfortunate situation as an opportunity to redeem themselves after the mistakes committed during their previous life, and rebelling now would mean rebelling to God. This pretty much gives people from higher castes not only the possibility but also the "right" and authority to trap them in their hopeless lives, with no chance of a better existence. For what concerns getting an education, schools are everywhere in India, but good luck attending one if you are an untouchable. Getting an education for all untouchables is a wishful thought, as they're denied most basic human rights.
It's the case in the US, where there's no gun control or background checks on anybody who wants to purchase a weapon. Despite having still fresh in mind what happened in Newtown CT last year, students all over America do go to school, but not without the fear of school shootings. Instead of making and implementing better laws to limit these episodes, the US Congress is paralyzed by political disagreements and can't get anything done. In the meanwhile, children continue to fall victims of disturbed individuals, who find nothing to stop their criminal actions. To this purpose, in the state of Florida some teachers are being trained to face school shooters. In other parts of the country schools have purchased bulletproof whiteboards, and added police officers and/or armed security guards to better protect their students. In some isolated cases, teachers have even been given weapons to actively take over the situation in case of an attack. Isn't this insane?
It's the case in isolated areas of rural Pakistan and Afghanistan, where the Taliban Movement still holds control of some patches of territory. These radicals don't want Pakistani and Afghan women to get an education, and something as simple as going to school can be very dangerous, sometimes even deadly. These extremists have thrown acid on Pakistani and Afghan girls' faces, poisoned their drinking water, burned their schools, and even shot them and their teachers in plain daylight. I'm sure everybody remembers what happened to the 16-year-old schoolgirl Malala Yousafzai. Militans from this group stopped her bus while she was going to school, entered the vehicle and cowardly shot her. They wanted to prevent her from writing about her experiences under their regime, but she survived; and now she's become an international icon advocating for the rights of every child of getting an education. Instead of silencing her, the Talibans had to watch her on tv campaigning at the United Nations against any type of repression of one of the most basic rights of every human being: education. Just recently, one of the leaders of the radical group sent a letter to Malala - who is now being considered for the Nobel Peace Prize - writing that attacking her was an "accident". Former UK Prime Minister Gordon Brown has declared that "Malala has clearly had a profound effect on the Taliban. It's taken her to put the Taliban completely on the defensive, and that's why they're issuing this statement now".
Malala's leadership is inspiring countless people around the world, but, luckily, she's not alone. There are organizations out there tirelessly working to support less fortunate children, and provide them with more and more opportunities of getting an education. Film Annex - a digital platform for independent filmmakers to showcase their work worldwide - is one of them. During the past 18 months, Film Annex - in collaboration with the Afghan Citadel Software Company - has been building Internet classrooms in Herat, the third largest city in Afghanistan, connecting more than 40,000 Afghan students to the cyberspace. Last month they opened another classroom in the Goharshad High School. Students are given computers, Internet connection, a curriculum and training, all completely free of charge. Many of these students have built relationships with people across the globe, and have started writing social media blogs and sharing on social media content that matters to them the most. A few are already getting paid for writing blogs, and are quickly learning how to earn money online. As a Senior Editor for the Annex Press - the media platform of Film Annex - I read blogs written by these students every day, which couldn't make me more proud of belonging to such project.
Film Annex cannot eliminate violence in schools. It doesn't have guns, security guards or bulletproof vests. Nevertheless, Film Annex possesses probably the most important and effective weapon against terrorists: the inspiring determination of an eclectic team, and the resilience of thousands of young vibrant souls eager to do whatever it takes to succeed in the modern world. As CEO and founder of Film Annex Francesco Rulli always says: "No politics, just Internet."
Senior Editor Annex Press, Film Annex
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